Shimla, Jan 29 (IANS) The previous BJP government's plan to install more anti-hail guns to protect fruit crops from hailstorms in Himachal Pradesh may be scrapped, Horticulture Minister Vidya Stokes said here Tuesday.
Expressing doubts over the worthiness of the anti-hail guns installed on a pilot basis in the state, for the first time in the country, Stokes said the government would not make use of three guns installed in 2010 in Shimla district.
The state horticulture department installed the anti-hail guns in Deorighat, Kathasu and Braionghat under a Rs.3.29 crore central government-funded project to protect apples from hailstorms during the flowering and fruit setting season.
"We will study the worthiness of the guns. As per our feedback and experience, they are not worthy to provide protection to crops from natural calamities. If needed, we will stop their use," Stokes told reporters here.
She said before taking any decision in this regard, local famers would be consulted.
Anti-hail guns create shock waves to disrupt formation of hailstones.
"The guns are not environment friendly and they are disturbing the weather. We would promote the use of anti-hail nets, the traditional method," Stokes, a prominent apple grower in the region, added.
According to horticulture department estimates, hailstorms damage 20-30 percent of vegetable and fruit crops in the state every year.
Himachal Pradesh, which has 90 percent of its population in rural areas, produced l.03 million tonnes of fruits in 2011, of which 892,000 tonnes were apples. It also produced a record 1.35 million tonnes of vegetables, valued at $400 million.
The BJP government last year had increased the farm subsidy on anti-hail nets from Rs.25,000 to Rs.50,000.
Stokes said the government was planning to increase the subsidy on nets to 80 percent.
The BJP government last year had submitted a Rs.374 crore anti-hail gun project to the central government for funding to install 300 guns in the state.
A high-level expert committee headed by Gorakh Singh, horticulture commissioner, had toured the apple-growing areas in the state in this regard.